Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wobbly times number 126

For the record, I don't think the IWW was/ is an anarchist organisation.  Of course, there are plenty of anarchists, anarcho syndicalists in the IWW, along with communists, democrats and workers with various ideological preferences. How could it be otherwise in a union dedicated to classwide organisation? Workers are different, come from different backgrounds, different personal histories and from different cultures.  Workers are individuals and by definition, individuals are diffferent. There was never a time when Wobblies have been barred from voting in elections on pain of losing membership in the One Big Union; just as there has never been a time when the IWW barred members from believing in god(s). DeLeon was dishonest when he portrayed the IWW as being anarchist, all because the union didn't ENDORSE voting and instead leaving it a private matter for the member.  He took out his personal anger on the union, after being denied his delegate's credentials at the 1908 Convention of the IWW, denouncing the One Big Union as having been captured by people who would subject its members to being tartgeted by State sponsored, agent provocateurs because 'the political clause' had been dropped from the IWW Preamble by the attending delegates. While the fear of police agent infiltration is genuine in any revolutionary organisation, merely endorsing peaceful revolution via the Amendment Clause to the US Constititution is no guarantee of freedom from police spies and provacateurs in your organisation.  But more than this, the IWW doesn't endorse a lot of proscriptive ideological doctrines. For example, the IWW also doesn't endorse Socialist Realism as the only form of acceptable working class art, although some on the left would consider that a terrible misjudgement.  The truth is that the IWW doesn't endorse a lot of the left's pet reformist projects. What workers need to know is that the IWW is organised around its Preamble. What Wobblies want and struggle for is written there, out in the open for all to see.  Wobblies are individual workers (sorry, no member of the employing class allowed membership) who endorse the Preamble, no matter whether they believe in divine powers after death; the Pope's inherent infallibility or surrealism as the only revolutionary art form etc. You will find no mention or endorsement of violence, 'bombism' or 'anarcho-syndicalism' in the IWW's Preamble. On the other hand, you will find a resolution in its Constitution which was written in 1908 stating that the IWW "...refuses all alliances, direct or indirect, with existing political parties or anti-political sects." That said, DeLeon was on target in his definition of socialism and his conception of how a revolutionary political party should dissolve itself and the political State on the day of its victory at the polls, as the workers themselves, organised in democratic, socialist industrial unions take, hold and operate the means of production for themselves.

Industrial Unionism
by Daniel De Leon
from The Daily People, Jan. 20, 1913 
In these days, when the term "Industrial Unionism" is being played with fast and loose;
-- when, in some quarters, partly out of conviction, partly for revenue, "striking at the ballot box with an axe," theft, even murder, "sabotage," in short, is preached in its name;
-- when, at the National Councils of the A. F. of L., lip-service is rendered to it as a cloak under which to justify its practical denial by the advocacy and justification of scabbery, as was done at Rochester, this very year, by the Socialist Party man and International Typographical delegate Max Hayes;
-- when notoriety seekers strut in and thereby bedraggle its fair feathers;
-- when the bourgeois press, partly succumbing to the yellow streak that not a member thereof is wholly free from, partly in the interest of that confusion in which capitalist intellectuality sees the ultimate sheet-anchor of class rule, promotes, with lurid reports, "essays" and editorials, a popular misconception of the term;
-- at this season it is timely that the Socialist Labor Party, the organization which, more than any other, contributed in raising and finally planting, in 1905, the principle and structure of Industrialism, reassert what Industrial Unionism is, restate the problem and its import.
Capitalism is the last expression of class rule. The economic foundation of class rule is the private ownership of the necessaries for production. The social structure, or garb, of class rule is the political State -- that social structure in which government is an organ separate and apart from production, with no vital function other than the maintenance of the supremacy of the ruling class.
The overthrow of class rule means the overthrow of the political State, and its substitution with the Industrial Social Order, under which the necessaries for production are collectively owned and operated by and for the people.
Goals determine methods. The goal of social evolution being the final overthrow of class rule, its methods must fit the goal.
As in nature, where optical illusions abound, and stand in the way of progress until cleared, so in society.
The fact of economic despotism by the ruling class raises, with some, the illusion that the economic organization and activity of the despotized working class is all-sufficient to remove the ills complained of.
The fact of political despotism by the ruling class raises, with others, the illusion that the political organization and activity of the despotized working class is all-sufficient to bring about redress.
The one-legged conclusion regarding economic organization and activity fatedly abuts, in the end, in pure and simple bombism, as exemplified in the A. F. of L., despite its Civic Federation and Militia of Christ affiliations, as well as by the anarcho-syndicalist so-called Chicago I.W.W., -- the Bakouninism, in short, against which the genius of Marx struggled and warned.
The one-legged conclusion regarding political organization and activity as fatedly abuts, in the end, in pure and simple ballotism, as already numerously and lamentably exemplified in the Socialist Party, -- likewise struggled and warned against by Marx as "parliamentary idiocy."
Industrial Unionism, free from optical illusions, is clear upon the goal the substitution of the political State with the Industrial Government. Clearness of vision renders Industrial Unionism immune both to the Anarch self-deceit of the "No government!" slogan, together with all the mischief that flows therefrom, and to the politician's "parliamentary idiocy" of looking to legislation for the overthrow of class rule.
The Industrial Union grasps the principle: "No government, no organization; no organization, no co-operative labor; no co-operative labor, no abundance for all without arduous toil, hence, no freedom." -- Hence, the Industrial Union aims at a democratically centralized government, accompanied by the democratically requisite "local self-rule."
The Industrial Union grasps the principle of the political State -- central and local authorities disconnected from productive activity; and it grasps the requirement of the government of freedom -- the central and local administrative authorities of the productive capabilities of the people.
The Industrial Union hearkens to the command of social evolution to cast the nation, and, with the nation, its government, in a mold different from the mold in which class rule casts nations and existing governments. While class rule casts the nation, and, with the nation, its government, in the mold of territory, Industrial Unionism casts the nation in the mold of useful occupations, and transforms the nation's government into the representations from these. Accordingly, Industrial Unionism organizes the useful occupations of the land into constituencies of future society.
In performing this all-embracing function, Industrial Unionism, the legitimate offspring of civilization, comes equipped with all the experience of the age.
Without indulging in the delusion that its progress will be a "dress parade"; and, knowing that its program carries in its fold that acute stage of all evolutionary processes known as revolution, the Industrial Union connects with the achievements of the revolutionary fathers of the country, the first to frame a constitution that denies the perpetuity of their own social system, and that, by its amendment clause, legalizes revolution. Connecting with that great achievement of the American revolution, fully aware that the revolution, which it is big with, being one that concerns the masses and that needs the masses for its execution, excludes the bare idea of conspiracy, and imperatively commands an open and above board agitational, educational and organizing activity; finally, its path lighted by the beacon tenet of Marx that none but the bona fide Union can set on foot the true political party of labor; Industrial Unionism bends its efforts to unite the working class upon the political as well as the industrial field, -- on the industrial field because, without the integrally organized union of the working class, the revolutionary act is impossible; on the political field, because on none other can be proclaimed the revolutionary purpose, without consciousness of which the Union is a rope of sand.
Industrial Unionism is the Socialist Republic in the making; and the goal once reached, the Industrial Union is the Socialist Republic in operation.
Accordingly, the Industrial Union is at once the battering ram with which to pound down the fortress of Capitalism, and the successor of the capitalist social structure itself.


  1. Great post! I too am sympathetic to DeLeonism but I disagree with his idea of affiliating the union with a political party. BTW Where did you get that comic book cover? That's hilarious!

  2. Cheers Brian. I got the comic book cover from the editor of the "IW"; but she got it from some other FW. Alas, I know not who.

    I think DeLeon was spot on with his descriptions of socialism. I mean from the point of view of Marx. The Social Dems abandoned abolition of the wage system and the abolition of the political State and went for reformist version of wage-labour or impossibly authoritarian versions of party imposed wage-systems leading to the New Jerusalem/Communism maybe 800 years in the future. IOW, the rest of the self-described socialist/communist pack were, for the most part, befuddled. You can see how their versions turned out to be just another version of wage-slavery for the producers.

    I agree with you about affiliating a class conscious union with a specific political party. I don't have any problems with a specific political party having the goal of abolishing the political State and allowing the classwide organisation of workers to take, hold and operate the means of production for themselves. In fact, I'd probably vote for such a party.